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Official Husker Locker Blog

2009 Jun 17

The Troubling Gap Between Texas...and Everyone Else

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By HuskerLocker

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If a fan of Nebraska athletics was already fearful that the Big 12 conference had tilted permanently in favor of Texas, consider this column a long, unpleasant spelunk into the cave of more proof.

According to data compiled by the NCAA’s Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act, the Longhorns’ athletic department brought $120.3 million in revenue in 2007-2008. That’s $32 million more than the second-place school in the Big 12 (the identity of which might surprise you, more on that in a minute).

That whopping dollar amount is the GDP of some third-world countries, and tops in college sports – just slightly ahead of Ohio State, which culls a major wad of cash from the Big Ten Network and runs two Jack Nicklaus-endorsed golf courses.

As for football revenue, UT was the nation’s No. 1 there, too, bringing in $72.9 million.

Yeah, in the Big 12, Nebraska was second. At $49 million. That’s close to the national top ten.

But the gap between NU and UT – almost $24 million - is larger the entire football revenue of six Big 12 teams. Texas earned five times what Kansas reported – although KU had $50 million of revenue in the “not allocated” category - and nearly doubled the $40.9 million taken in by Oklahoma, a program that’s had more success than its rival over the last decade (one more reason to respect Bob Stoops, eh?).

UT recorded more than $52 million in profit. That alone is more than the reported football revenues of any Big 12 team. And while Texas also spends more money on football, it only spends a fraction more - $20 million vs. the $19 million spent by Texas A&M, the $18.8 million spent by OU and the $18.7 spent by Nebraska.

Why? Because the Longhorns merely have to drive a couple hours to many of the nation’s best football recruits who reside in cities surrounding Austin – Dallas, Houston, Fort Worth, San Antonio. How hard is it to recruit when you’ve got most of your class figured out before Memorial Day?

Is Texas the lone “have” in the conference? Of course not. OU holds its own. Kansas leads the way in basketball revenue. Oklahoma State, behind the donor dollars of billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens, is actually second in total revenue at $88 million. And Texas A&M, with Bill Byrne as the athletic director, will make a serious push at UT in all the pertinent Olympic, smaller sports. The Aggies already have, in fact, winning national titles in men’s golf and track.

Nebraska is stuck in a tougher spot. The Huskers have always hung their hat on football, and have a former football coach as the athletic director. Sans Texas (and Pickens, I suppose), nobody runs a better fundraising show in the Big 12, and Tom Osborne has brought needed stability back to North Stadium.

NU had the upper hand for more than 30 years, 1970-2001, winning five national titles to Texas’ zero, playing in countless more title games (UT played in one and lost to Notre Dame) winning one more Heisman Trophy, more O’Brien Awards, more Lombardis, more Outlands, you name it. But UT, right now, simply does football better, and has since 2002.

The orderly Big 12 reinvigorated Texas, which suffered in the lawless, hate-fueled Southwestern Conference. Like a defeated corporate giant suddenly tabbed to run another company, UT threw around far more bluster and weight upon its entrance into the league than its athletic portfolio suggested it could.

Too willing to topple the Big Red Machine in football – and upon the inception of the Big 12, there was no college football program more powerful and intimidating than Nebraska - Big 12 South members unwisely followed the Longhorns’ lead on a number of issues, whether it was partial academic qualifiers, television contracts or the facilities arms race. It all favored Texas.

You think Iowa State wouldn’t mind some partial qualifiers? Colorado? Kansas State? Oklahoma State? You think these same schools enjoy building perk after perk for 19-year-olds, only to see Texas, its stadium not even full for every game, roll out every red carpet known to man?

Not to say that UT has ill in mind for the rest of the league, but the numbers simply don’t lie: The Longhorns, financially, has the Big 12 wrapped around its burnt orange finger.

Once upon a time, the most loathed man in the history of NU athletics, Steve Pederson, vowed not to surrender the Big 12 to Texas (and Oklahoma). It was a cocky statement then, an affront to some Husker fans who believed Nebraska ruled the Big 12 roost for many years, and weren’t far, at the time, from ruling it again.

But it’s time get honest. This isn’t 1996 anymore, and Texas made three terrific hires – Mack Brown, Rick Barnes and Augie Garrido – when it counted. Brown and Garrido won national titles, and Barnes took the Horns to a Final Four. Since those hires, Nebraska’s on its third football coach, its third basketball coach, and currently slumping in baseball.

At $75.4 million, NU is now fifth in total revenue, behind Texas, Oklahoma State, Kansas (a surprising $86 million) and Oklahoma ($77 million). And Texas A&M, which was so bad off four years ago that the university actually loaned the athletic department $16 million, is not far behind at $74.7 million. Missouri doesn’t currently compete in terms of revenue, but the sleeping giant has finally woken up, as the Tigers won Big 12 titles in men’s basketball, softball, and women’s soccer, reaching the conference title games in baseball and football.

While Pederson, Bill Callahan and Co. dithered around with a culture change, Mizzou and KU caught up, Byrne started working from the ground up in College Station and OU and Texas broke further away from the pack.

So now is not the time for NU administrators or fans to get distracted by the sheer, stunning misery of two Big 12 North schools – Iowa State and Colorado – and the tumult engulfing Kansas State. They’re the jokes of the league, and Nebraska better plan on beating them consistently in just about everything.

It’s also not the time to get overly wistful for the old days of 2000, when the Huskers’ athletic program was the envy of the every school not named Stanford. It’s time to work smarter and harder.

Here's how.

Tags: texas, tom osborne, mack brown, bo pelini, steve pederson, oklahoma, kansas, missouri, texas a, m, bill byrne

Comments (4)

Profile image for HookahHorns
HookahHorns

"Texas...nearly doubled the $40.9 million taken in by Oklahoma, a program that’s had more success than its rival over the last decade (one more reason to respect Bob Stoops, eh?)"

What in the world does revenue have to do with respecting Bob Stoops? Texas spent $20 million to OU's 18.8 million on football. Maybe you have have a predilection for poor, backwater states and schools with terrible academics?

– Jun 17, 2009 at 4:37 pm

Profile image for The_Walleye
The_Walleye

I agree. at least here I feel like the total well being of Nebraska is being taken into account, and not just the latest trend.

– Jun 17, 2009 at 11:57 am

Profile image for Awal
Awal

As a Texas grad and fan, I think your article is spot on. You addressed an issue as relates to football recruiting, but I think it permeates the whole athletic universe of the Big 12. Namely, through a quirk of geography, UT is within driving distance of three of the biggest cities in the country (and three cities where people care most about college athletics). Because of this Texas has the aforementioned recruiting benefits, but they also are able to maintain very high levels of interest which often translates to television/media money.

Back at the formation of the Big 12, it looked like a Texas-Nebraska rivalry was going to be a major driver of the conference. Due to bad football (I'm looking at you Mackovic) Texas was unable to get back into the conference championship with any regularity. Coupled with the Solich-Callahan interlude, that rivalry seems to have foundered. The best thing that could happen to the Big 12 is a renewal of that rivalry and putting some teeth back into NU-OU.

Given your stats regarding relative football budgets, it would seem likely that NU should be able to counter Texas’ slight monetary advantage in football. (It’s the non-revenue sports where that advantage really takes its toll.) It also wouldn’t be very hard for Nebraska to overcome (at least partially) Texas’ “recruiting advantage.” With the biggest talent pool in the country at its doorstep, Texas does a mediocre job of identifying talent and translating it to the field.

I’m hoping (maybe as much as some of you) that the Big 12 North can get its act together and return to football prominence. I think Pelini is probably on the right track. I still think that Hawkins is also going to be able to turn the corner at CU (who I wouldn’t disparage by lumping with Iowa State, since they’ve beaten you 4 out of the last 8 ). Revitalized programs at Mizzou and KU should help also.

Thanks for the great article and good luck to the Huskers (except against Texas

– Jun 17, 2009 at 11:49 am

Profile image for MrGoodLifeLocker Pass member
MrGoodLife

Wow. Interesting. I suppose this is why I come to this site and not some others.

– Jun 17, 2009 at 10:01 am

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